Building decarbonization involves transitioning to all-electric power and carbon-free energy sources, essential for meeting California's long-term climate goals.
Building decarbonization, which involves transitioning buildings to all-electric power in combination with renewable or carbon-free energy sources, is essential for meeting California’s long-term climate goals.
One of the biggest hurdles we face in the fight against climate change is greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), the most common of which is carbon dioxide (CO2). Buildings and construction account for 31% of our nation’s emissions and approximately 25% of the emissions in California. In addition, the use of non-renewable fossil fuels (like natural gas, oil, and coal) for daily activities such as heating and cooking contributes to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions through both the extraction process and their use. Employing effective building decarbonization solutions is an essential step in reducing GHGs and creating a more sustainable future.
What is Building Decarbonization?
Building decarbonization refers to the process of eliminating GHG emissions from both existing buildings and new construction. Buildings that use fossil fuels for lighting, heating, and cooking contribute to what’s known as operational carbon; some examples of how operational carbon can be reduced include:
- Smart technology
- Grid integration and demand response
- Reducing indoor and outdoor water needs
- Reducing waste
- Thermal energy storage
However, operational carbon (carbon that comes from lighting, heating, etc.) is only part of the problem; buildings also have what’s known as embodied carbon.
What is Embodied Carbon?
Embodied carbon refers to the CO2 emissions associated with materials and the construction process throughout the lifecycle of a building. This includes CO2 that was created during the:
- Materials extraction process
- Transportation of the materials to the manufacturer
- Manufacturing of the materials
- Transportation of the materials to the job site
- Construction practices used at the job site
Essentially embodied carbon is the total carbon footprint of constructing a building up until it’s considered operational. The processing of concrete and steel alone represents a large portion of embodied carbon–up to 60%, due to the production process and the large amount of each material used in a typical building. Embodied carbon also refers to the emissions created by:
- Maintaining a building
- Demolishing a building
- Transporting the demolished waste
- Recycling the waste
Due to policies and incentives that focus on reducing operational carbon, embodied carbon has now become a larger part of a building’s total carbon footprint, according to the World Green Building Council. However, given that operational carbon is continually emitted over the course of a building’s life, it’s essential to employ building decarbonization solutions that work to reduce both types of carbon.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, up to 61% of emissions from buildings worldwide can be reduced if effective energy efficiency policies are implemented and roadblocks to decarbonization are removed.
Decarbonization Solutions from Gilleran Energy Management
Gilleran Energy Management offers effective strategies to help you reduce carbon emissions on both existing buildings and new construction, including:
- Constructing all-electric homes and businesses
- Electrification of existing buildings
- Producing renewable energy onsite using solar, small-scale wind, geothermal, hydropower, or other sustainable resources
- Installation of all-electric high-efficiency appliances in homes and businesses
- Improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings and integrating energy-efficient features into new construction plans
- Lowering the demand for resources through the design process and sustainable construction practices, such as reducing waste, improving the overall carbon footprint, and limiting over specifications
- Increasing the usage of scrap, recycled, and high-performance materials
Expert Support for Building Decarbonization
Whether you’re a homeowner who’d like to do your part in reducing California’s carbon footprint or a developer involved in a new construction project, Gilleran Energy Management can help you determine exactly what’s needed to meet your decarbonization goals. With decades of experience providing consulting for the affordable housing, commercial, residential, winery, cannabis, and school markets, we can help you understand your impact on climate change and develop an effective plan to move away from reliance on fossil fuels and limit embodied carbon.
Our consultants stay current on the latest industry developments and offer comprehensive support for LEED certification, electrification, Zero Net Energy, ASHRAE 1-3 audits, evaluation of eligibility for existing programs (like the California Energy Commission’s BUILD and Energy-Smart Homes), and more. We can also help you understand how the latest update to the 2022 Energy & Green Building Codes will affect your upcoming projects. To schedule a consultation, contact us today at (707) 528-7318 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on January 3, 2023 in Updates